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Back to Part Two (a)



The day normal changed, Shane woke up alone.

Par for the course, really, on weekdays, because Regs worked in an office, and his place was nowhere near it, but he also woke up naked and a little sticky, with random elbow-shaped bruises in odd places.

He knew how every last sore spot had landed on his skin.

All things considered, waking up alone was probably still par for the course.

He groaned mentally and rolled out of bed, grabbing a pair of Brendon's pants — not the ones from the night before — to hitch over his ass. He was going to be naked enough for this conversation.

It wasn't exactly that they hadn't talked the night before--dude, we're not exclusive, you've seen her kiss Josh, right?--but they hadn't talked about —

They had talked about the act, not the after.

Brendon was hiding in a cocoon of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, curled defensively in one corner of the couch. He'd wrapped his knees in the rough green afghan his aunt had knitted for him for Christmas a year back.

Shane reached over and ruffled his hair on the way past, casual, rough, not at all like smoothing his thumbs over Brendon's temples, nothing close to pulling Brendon's red, wet mouth nearer to the base of his dick. He went and poured a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles and slumped sideways on the couch, his head knocking against Brendon's shoulder and staying there.

Raph did something badass with his sai and Shane grunted approval, crunching another spoonful of Pebbles.

The Turtles had defeated the aliens and were halfway to another encounter with Shredder before Brendon's feet were all the way on the floor, but they made it there.

Shredder was escaping and vowing his revenge as Shane chased the last few cereal specks around the bottom of the bowl. Brendon, sitting almost normally now, reached over and stole it, with a hand that only shook a little, and drank the weakly-chocolate milk down.

There was a disgusting slurping noise as he lowered the bowl, and Shane made a face at him. Brendon made one back. Shane stuck out his tongue. Brendon turned his eyelids inside out. Shane flinched, because ew ew ew ew ew, and Brendon grinned in triumph. Shane smacked him on the back of the head and took the bowl back. He shoved off the couch and headed for the kitchen.

"Shane?" Brendon sounded hesitant.

Shane didn't turn around. "Yeah?"

"I, uh — I was supposed to be taking Julie to lunch — "

"Try that new Thai place," Shane said immediately, flicking on the kitchen sink to help hide the way his voice was unexpectedly, inexplicably shaking. This was the plan.

There was a long pause as the sound of the rushing water filled Shane's eardrums, drowning the little bones that controlled his balance, that stopped the room from spinning around him.

"Sure, yeah," Brendon said, and his voice was weird, but no longer cautious, no longer afraid. Shane let the bowl clatter to the bottom of the sink, twisted the water off, rubbed his hands along the backs of his thighs, still tight and sore from shoving his cock so deep in Brendon's ass he had known he'd never pull free.

"Is Shredder in the next episode?" he called, glancing around in case one of them had actually remembered to do a load of dish towels.

There weren't any crumpled heaps of blue on the countertops. He left the bowl in the sink.


By any artistic rights, Shane thinks, coming into the kitchen the next morning scratching at his stomach, the light should be cold gray dawn, and the dogs lying quietly at Spencer's feet, with maybe the occasional soft whimper of sympathy.

But because life doesn't let Shane direct it, it's almost noon and the sun is shining bright and hard through the patio doors, recoiling off the countertops; the dogs are yapping as they wrestle in a corner. Spencer's at odds with the rest of it, the warm clear day and the smell of warm poptarts, sitting hunched over the table with terrible hollows under his eyes and half a fake pastry disintegrating in his coffee cup.

Somehow it's even sadder this way. Sometimes Shane thinks he should stick to fucking documentaries and have done, because life pulls the kind of sucker-punches he just doesn't have the imagination for.

He goes to the toasting cupboard ostentatiously and starts rattling through the boxes, announcing his own presence without demanding that Spencer talk. Spencer will talk if he wants to, and if he doesn't want to it'll be like boxing with King Kong — bloody, and ultimately pointless.

"I got Jon to come take care of Ryan," Spencer says, behind him, and the chair scrapes as he gets up. Shane turns and watches him walk over to the sink, pour out the cold coffee all clotted and gross with marshmallowy graham cracker crumbs. How Spencer can eat that stuff — wait.

"Jon?" he says, trying hard for casual, as casual as Spencer is trying to be. Shit. This is a way bigger shitfest than just Keltie dumping Ryan, then, although that would be bad enough. "When's he coming?"

"Hopping the next flight, I think." Spencer rinses out his mug and fills it up with hot coffee, then sips and makes his burned-tongue face. "He'll forward the flight info, he always does. I — would you mind picking him up?"

Double shit. "'Course, man. Glad to see him."

Spencer nods and reaches over Shane's shoulder for the box of S'more poptarts, ripping open the silver foil with possibly a little bit more force than is totally necessary.

His hands are shaking, just the tiniest bit.

"Spence — " Shane starts, putting a hand on Spencer's wrist. "Are you sure you don't want to — "

Spencer sucks in a sharp breath and wrenches his hands to the side, fumbling for the toaster. "I'm sure he doesn't want me there. I can't--"

The second stair from the bottom creaks, which isn't nearly enough warning. Shane freezes, still uncertain what they're going to tell Brendon about this, and then he turns and curses all over the inside of his head, because really, could there be a worse time for Brendon to be bringing random girls home?

Sarah's wearing a man's button-down — probably Spencer's, maybe Jon's, too long to be Brendon's. "Good morning," she says, brightly, bending down to scratch behind the ears of the skittering dogs.

Shane frantically seeks out Spencer's eyes and tries to communicate with him telepathically. Spencer seems to have picked up on his purpose, but there's something blocking the signal. It may be panic. Both of them mutter something approximating a greeting.

"Good girl, Dylan," she says, giving a final pat and standing up again. "Do you believe in sharing poptarts, Spencer? Or am I on my own in this strange, cruel kitchen?"

And maybe it's the blue of the shirt, like the dress he's pretty sure he remembers her in, or maybe it's the way she's using Spencer's name as though they've been introduced, but Shane suddenly realizes he's seen her before.

"The S'mores are mine and only mine," Spencer says, baring his teeth in a smile that could almost pass for playful. "But the rest of the cupboard is all yours. I think there's a full box of wildberry, even. I'll get you some coffee."

Seen her at Pete's parties, industry parties, hanging off the arms of guys with familiar faces, frontman kinds of faces.

"That would be great, thanks," she says, smiling back, stretching lazily so her breasts bob distractingly inside the shirt.

Shit. Family secrets aaaaalllll over the scene, if past experience is any kind of indication, and the secrets they're spilling right now are particularly volatile. And Brendon doesn't usually pick up career industry girlfriends for playtime; she'll be around for a while. Possibly Shane should have expected this reaction to the conversation Brendon overheard. He never picks innocents when he's making a point.

Shane realizes he's been sort of staring at her, and turns hastily back to the cupboard. "There are wildberries," he says, inanely, pulling them down. "Or we have raspberry, banana split, cherry, cookie dough, blueberry, and if you'll actually eat these milkshake-flavored things I will pay you."

"Vanilla or strawberry?"

He turns, and his look of horror is only half-forced. "You know there are two kinds?"

She quirks a little half-grin at him. "Says the man with banana split pastries in his cupboard."

"Those are Brendon's," he protests.

"--hey!" and Brendon's standing in the doorway in his underpants, looking indignant. "You bought them!"

"That is because I know you so very well," Shane says, just the barest hint of acid seeping through his bantering tone. "I notice they disappear pretty fast."

Brendon walks over behind Sarah, wrapping his arms around her waist from behind and talking into her hair, bending to kiss the curve of her neck with a loud obnoxious smack. She squirms a little and giggles. "Can I help it if you buy me monkey treats?" he says, taking Sarah's hand and spinning her around.

"Can you help being a monkey?" Spencer sets a full mug on the counter next to Sarah and goes over to push the button on the toaster down.

"Of course not, Spencer Smith," Brendon says indignantly, "and none of you would love me if I were other than myself." He goes for the mug cupboard and takes two down, carrying them over to the refrigerator and bending in for the bottles of syrup. He swirls chocolate into one and drips hazelnut into the other before reaching for the carafe and adding coffee.

Shane accepts the hazelnut mug and leans back against the counter to sip it, watching Brendon jostle Spencer for the creamer. It's always moments like this one that make it impossible to stay mad at Brendon, even in the face of Sarah's curious eyes taking everything in.


Of course Shane bought the banana split poptarts, even though they take turns doing the grocery shopping, actually. Now that he's here, Spencer goes with either of them, because Spencer occasionally cooks, but when it's Shane and Brendon in their own house there's a reasonably strict division of labor.

Shane does the laundry, because Brendon shrinks things and pretends it's on purpose, but Brendon does the dishes because Shane has what Brendon calls "misplaced faith" in the scrubbing power of the dishwasher. Brendon feeds the dogs, but Shane trains them; sweeping and vacuuming on the household chart with the shopping and computer maintenance. Brendon keeps the music and DVDs in order because he's a freak like that.

(If Shane maybe takes the time once a week to untangle the video game cords and wrap them tidily around the controllers, it's nobody's business but his own. Anyway, sometimes he can time it for the same time as Brendon's sorting, and Brendon's ass sticks out and wiggles a lot when he's bending over to rearrange the cases.)

About two-thirds of their sex life isn't fucking, because fucking takes time and Brendon is an impatient little brat, but they switch whose dick is in whose ass on a more or less equal basis. Brendon needs to get out of his head sometimes and Shane is more than happy to give him that, with hard hands or glinting cuffs, but a lot of the time they just roll around, touch and lick and bite until they come.

They fight, sometimes — about feeding the dogs under the table or wet towels on the floor or what movie to watch or just because they haven't spent enough time together or maybe it's too much time crowded close. Sometimes it ends in angry sex or sweet, I'm-sorry sex. Mostly, they hug it out, manly claps to the shoulder and everything.

It's a good life they have, snuggles and mopwater and pigtail-pulling and shared bills; quiet and ordinary, in between the cramped, bizarre world where Brendon is a superstar and Shane is his roots. It's enough, to have that — to love Brendon and live with him and lean on him and be (almost) what he needs.

Most of the time, anyway, it's enough — and all of the time, it's his.


It's four days later when Brendon suggests they go out, the five of them. Spencer bows out — Spencer's been bowing out of everything, ever since the Incident, and Shane doesn't think he's sleeping even though that's his excuse — but they're going to double, Shane and Regan, Brendon and Sarah.

Sarah's been in and out of the house, the occasional breakfast or movie, unpredictable and difficult to avoid. She never seems to be wearing her own clothes. It's putting a strain on all of them.

Bad enough, Jon has been going back and forth between the canyon house and the Valdez-Urie-Smith household, bearing equally bad tidings both ways, as far as Shane can see. Bad enough, Spencer watching infomercials into the wee hours of the morning and spending hours sitting at the window, chewing his lip bloody. Bad enough, the way Brendon went fast-paced and uneasy when he heard Keltie had left Ryan, though he doesn't seem to feel guilty.

All that is bad enough, but doing it for an audience is growing steadily more intolerable. Shane leapt on the idea of going out when Brendon suggested it — just getting out of the house, for the love of God. What Spencer's doing to his drums is about to drive Shane over the cliff, and he only knows the basics.

"Dinner, don't you think?" Regan said musingly into the phone. "I want my chance at the fresh meat. And then we can do something easy after, a play or something. Leah's doing No, No Nanette at some crappy theater or other."

Shane groaned, and made her promise to buy the tickets, and told Brendon, who confirmed with Sarah, and now here they all are, tucked into a booth at a classy little Italian place.

"So you're a nanny?" Regs is asking sweetly, poking at her ravioli with a fork.

"Up the coast aways," Sarah says, nodding. "Two little girls, they're wonderful, even when they're being little terrors."

"And you're from Detroit?"

"Mmm-hmmm." Sarah's mouth is still full from her bite of lobster tail diavolo.

"My friend Jeanette's girlfriend is from out that way." Shane ducks his head to study his lasagna, and Regan kicks him. Brendon is doing a very bad job of hiding his smile. "She boats, apparently."

Sarah grins. "She must make more money than my parents do, then. We went on a barge for my ninth birthday party, though."

The conversation is permitted to drift into childhood birthday parties, including Brendon's classic and tragic story about kidnapping the baby deer from the traveling petting zoo.

They move on, to favorite animals, to nieces and nephews, to the play they're going to see and Sarah bonding with Regan over obscure Doris Day movies. It isn't until they're rising from dessert, scraping the last bits of gelato and tiramisu as they stand up, that Regan slips in another little test.

"I haven't seen it yet," she says to Sarah, holding up her hair with one hand and letting Shane slide her jacket over her arm. "I always take Shane for the first time, the friend obligation, you know." She rolls her eyes. "He's had so many years of pretending to like Panic's stuff that he knows how to be polite."

Brendon sticks his tongue out at her, and she winks at him.

"Andrew just completely fails at that kind of thing," Regan goes on, dropping her hair and wrestling into her other sleeve. "I can't take him anywhere — once he told my best friend she should think about playing one of the men's parts. I don't know why I put up with him, honestly — the sex is not that good."

Sarah's eyes widen a trifle, but all she says is, "Andrew's your other boyfriend?"

Regan smiles at her like a cartoon shark. "One of them. The other's still in Vegas, we're seeing if the long-distance thing works out."

"That must be hard." Sarah smiles back sympathetically. "I had to give up my girlfriend in Detroit, in the end. I know people who make it work, though…and if you're poly, you know about keeping it honest. You'll make it if it's meant to be."

The edges of Regan's grin soften to something genuinely pleased. "Yeah, that's what I think. Brendon, honey, go get a cab, will you? We've got the bill."

"Sure," Brendon replies, looking down at Sarah with doubtful surprise written in the lines of his eyebrows. He takes her hand and tugs her toward the entrance of the restaurant.

Regan tugs Shane's wallet out of his pocket and pulls out a few bills, laying them on the table. "I like her," she says, unnecessarily, tucking the wallet back in and standing on her tiptoes to kiss his nose. "Can we keep her around long enough for a girls' night with rum and Doris Day?"

"She's passed the first round with flying colors," Shane agrees, amused. "But it's really up to Brendon."

Regan rolls her eyes. "Like Brendon knows anything about women. We should just handcuff her to him, he'll get the idea." She starts to follow the other two, but Shane puts a hand on her wrist. She turns to look at him, one eyebrow raised.

"Go slow, okay?" he says, quiet and intent. "She's done a lot of dating around the scene, and with Keltie and everything…the last thing we need is — "

"More meat for the ghouls," she finishes for him, nodding. "Yeah, okay. I really do like her, though, Shane."

Shane sighs. "The problem, really," he says, slinging his own jacket over his shoulders and pulling her hand through the crook of his elbow, "is that if it weren't for all the crap going on, so would I."


There are days Shane feels like Regan met Brendon and just never stopped laughing at him. At Shane, that is, not at Brendon. Not that she doesn't laugh at Brendon when he deserves it, but sometimes she stops for breath.

It was a casual evening in — Jon there, because Ryan's mom was still making awkward advances and Jackie — or Crystal? one of them — was in the school play, Jon and Clara and Adam and somebody Shane can't remember, people from his college crowd, and Regan's friends from wherever she was working then. Brendon and Jon were the last ones out the door, because Brendon challenged Shane at some stupid video game and Shane couldn't let it go until he beat him down. It wasn't long since Shane had first met the band — a couple of weeks, maybe — but they had clicked, all of them.

Regan finally declared the competition a tie when she saw Jon's enormous yawn. She kicked them out gracefully, walking them to the door with the "nice to meet you"s and the "we should do this again"s, shut it behind them, turned around, and laughed.

Shane looked up from where he was winding up the game controllers. "What?"

She grinned at him, still chuckling, gleeful. "You are so smitten."

He blushed, ducked his head uselessly.

"You want to carry him around in your pocket and take him out for blowjobs, don't you?"

"I — " Shane stopped, closed his mouth, and finally let out a rueful laugh.

"You really, really do," she assured him, and took her shirt off. The aftermath of her gigglefit was still rippling across her boobs. It was distracting. "You want to buy him roses and celebrate your anniversary with candlelight," she continued, walking towards Shane with a deliberate, hip-switching step. "You want to lick his neck, and taste his favorite candy in his mouth, and — " she squealed when Shane pounced, swinging her up over his shoulder.

Shane smacked her ass and she yelped again, trying to twist so she could get her hands down his pants and distract him. "You loooooooove him," she said, still laughing, as Shane carried her into the bedroom and dumped her on the bed. "You want to — " and then she was giggling into his mouth as he nipped at her lips.

Shane had always been poly more in theory than in practice. He didn't mind if Regan wanted another boyfriend, or five of them, or a girlfriend if that was what took her fancy. But he wasn't very good at casual, and he was picky about the people he let see him naked, and so far nobody had come even close to making him light up inside the way she did.

Brendon was the first since Regs, the first to make him feel like he could fall in love, tumble head over heels and skin his knees on the rocks and bump his head on the hillside and have it be worth picking himself up and asking for refuge. There were a hundred reasons why not — Shane's internet stalking had found them all, Brendon's tentative friendship with his family, his bad relationships with girls, the fact that as far as a growing fanbase could determine, he had no intention of trying anything with a guy — but Shane wanted, in a way he hadn't since Regan first hipchecked him into a quiet corner and wound her fingers through his beltloops.

It was crazy and reckless and stupid, and he was going to forget about it immediately, starting by shutting Regan up with a mind-altering orgasm that would make her forget how well she knew him.

He got her the orgasm, but he woke up at noon to the apartment smelling of coffee and the cold Chinese takeout she'd left on the counter for him, with a small giftbag beside the carton.

Ran out for lunch before work, the note under the mug ran. Don't forget your jacket at the drycleaners, you'll need it for the interview tomorrow. The present's for you…I think it's time you had your own.

Shane recognized the book from Regan's apartment, where it was battered and dog-eared in at least four places from all the times she had tried to explain how she lived to her friends, but this was a new, crisp copy. The Ethical Slut, with a very simple inscription.

Now that I'm one of two. Love, Regan


Zack shows up on Wednesday, Carol-less. He slaps Spencer’s back just a little too heartily when they hug hello, though, peers a little too searchingly into Brendon’s face.

He’s heard something, all right. For all the music business travels from Kentucky to Australia, it is a tiny, incestuous place, and gossip spreads from tech to security to girlfriend to producer, occasionally stopping for a breather on the internet. Shane’s sort of dreading learning what made it to Zack’s ears.

Zack drops to his knees to make a fuss of the dogs, including Bogart, who he hasn’t met yet and who is practically catapulting into the air trying to get attention from the big strange thing in his house, touching his humans. He rubs ears and scratches bellies and commands calm in a voice that’s eerily reminiscent of the one Shane’s heard at six o’clock in the morning before interviews.

Finally the pups are all piled into his lap or sprawled tummy-up on the floor, and Zack can start catching up. Bogart’s almost as cute as you said, Brendon, and how’s Regan’s new job working out, and what's Haley up to, Spencer, and hey, Bden, I hear you’ve got a new girl, with the eyes averted and the fingers busy behind Indy’s ear.

Shane breathes a sigh of relief. It’s just Sarah making the rounds.

Of course, that means it’s up to Shane to tattle about all the other crap to Zack — not that he’ll do anything, Zack doesn’t poke the sticky webs between his artists ever, but he should probably know--but at least it means family business is still strictly in the family. For now.

He and Zack both pretend Zack didn't notice the sigh.

"Oh, yeah," Brendon says, "Sarah, she's great." Brendon is smiling his reporter smile. "I think you met her, once?"

"Probably," Zack says, which answers a few more questions. "I want to meet her again, though, big guy, now that she's your special lady." It amazes Shane, how Zack makes that come out not sarcastic at all. Zack says a lot of things not-sarcastically, though, things like, "I will call the lawyers about what to do in case of paternity testing," and "I know about you and white cheddar Cheez-Its so I picked up four boxes yesterday," and "I am willing to smuggle weed past Tibetan security but it means you will have to keep track of your own ear-popping gum because my pockets are already stuffed with Jon's corn pads."

"Sure," Brendon says, still grinning with a manic and completely insincere intensity. "We could all go out to dinner!"

"You guys go on — " Spencer starts, like he has every fucking time since Valentine's, but Zack interrupts him.

"Nah." Zack pushes himself to his feet, carelessly. "Got plans already. Besides, this is my first time visiting you in L.A. Are you trying to tell me we're not going to Disneyland? You too cool for Donald Duck now?"

Oh, brilliant. Brilliant. Shane could kiss him. (Except not, because Shane likes occasionally being considered one of the grown-ups.) How is it possible Shane didn't think of that?

Brendon brightens, straightening his shoulders from the creepily-intense leaning thing he does as part of the reporter smile. "Yeah, man, totally. I will whup your ass at Buzz Lightyear and don't you think I won't."

"Yeah, we'll see," Zack says, punching him lightly in the arm. "Go call your girl, okay? Tell her we're going tomorrow and I could own a shotgun if I wanted to." Brendon rolls his eyes and leaves the room.

"Yeah, I think I'll pass," Spencer says, trying to raise a sardonic eyebrow, and Zack punches him too.

"Dream on, fuckface, I will double your score with one hand behind my back. If you even try to chicken out and deny me my right to gloat I will tell Ryan about this designer Carol knows who's really into modernizing Georgian fashions."

For a second Spencer looks like he's been hit in the gut, but he musters up a sickly smile. "God, anything but that. Fine, fine, I'll go — and I'll kick your ass, just for that."

"Your pathetic and futile dreams amuse me, child," Zack says. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"I'll walk you out," Shane offers quickly.

He very decently waits until they're out on the porch, door shut behind them, before reaching up to give Zack the fiercest hug of his life. "Yes," he says. "I cannot believe I didn't think of that. Why didn't I think of that?"

It's a classic, the dork-out. No girl dating Brendon Urie for his rockstar glory ever sticks around after watching more than fifteen minutes of a Disney movie with him (mouthing the lines, singing along at the top of his voice). Even a really hardcore scene girlfriend isn't going to last a whole day at the happiest place on the earth. Shane can have his house back.

"Because I am a genius," Zack says loftily. "You're my dinner plans, by the way. Tell me what they've gotten themselves into now."


Shane would like to pretend it says something awesome and profound about his relationship with Brendon that he finally got his Urie stamp of approval at Disneyland, the place guaranteed to make Brendon's girls run.

They hit the rides early in the morning, to avoid the crowds and the sun; Shane helped slather Alan with sunscreen and made Brendon put it on, too, because Brendon liked to peel his skin off and leave it everywhere. He left his camera in the room — the various sisters-in-law had four, between them — and walked between Kyla and Grace, mostly, because going anywhere Disney with Brendon was like walking a new puppy without a leash.

Sometimes Shane considered leashes as a lifestyle choice, and not the kinky kind. But they were a big enough group to keep an eye on Brendon, and anyway they had the kids, who Brendon revolved around whenever they were in the same state. Shane kept one eye out for Brendon's ridiculous sunglasses, occasionally hooked a finger in Emma's tiny hoodie to keep her from getting trampled, and gave Kyla pointers on framing her shots.

The Uries had always been polite, had smiled and invited him to family celebrations and made small talk. It probably hadn't hurt that Shane had been Brendon's shiny new friend when they were crafting that first fragile peace, but Shane's met Matt's college roommate and Kara's study partner. They welcome people in. (It's possible Brendon mutters darkly about social conversion when he hears Shane accepting invitations to parties Brendon doesn't want to attend, but whatever. They won't try anything official, not with Shane, and there are worse traditions than making people feel like part of the family, whatever the roots of it.)

Shane hadn't expected to be included in their Christmas plans, but he was wholly incapable of resisting Brendon's pleading eyes when it had anything to do with his family. Shane had been buffering Urie family events practically since he met Brendon, and he knew exactly why he was sometimes necessary. Things had been better for a long time, but the whole week in close proximity was a lot to ask of everybody.

Now it was easy, second nature, talking basketball with Boyd and asking Toby about his chess team; distracting Brendon with shiny objects when church activities came up and humming along to the old songs everybody but Shane knew the words for. They landed somewhere made of orange metal for lunch, and Shane took Emma from Mason's wife, propped her on his hip. Grace was organizing them with the tired efficiency a lifetime of being a mother had given her, shoving the boys and Kara at the tables to go hold places for the rest of them, making sure everybody going up to the counter had everybody else's order down. She hesitated fractionally when she got to Shane and Brendon, who was bending down to make faces at Emma. Shane smiled at her.

"You know what I want, right?" he asked Brendon, and Brendon nodded.

"Split some nachos?"

"Sure." Shane smiled at Grace again and went to sit with the married men and the single lady, just slightly bemused by the division of labor. He settled himself at one end of the long row of tables, dragging over a high chair for Emma. She didn't want to go, though, and he settled her on the tabletop instead, facing him. She started to tell him about the mouse ears she had seen in a window, slightly incoherently, and Shane was so sunk in translating her to English that he jumped when he felt a hand on his arm.

"Sorry, man," Matt said wryly. "Didn't mean to scare you."

"She's a fascinating lady," Shane said, smiling at Emma, who'd gotten interested in the little bells on her shoelaces and wasn't paying attention anymore.

Matt grinned just like Brendon. "I just wanted to say — he could tell us."

Shane raised his eyebrows, puzzled.

"I mean — if you two wanted to, like. Officially. We're always glad to have you, Shane, you get that, right? All of us."

Shane could feel his face turn red. "I — ah — "

Matt leaned back hastily. "Sorry, I mean, I didn't — no pressure. I just — it would be nice. I — I wanted him to know it was safe."

Shane huffed out a quick, unhappy breath. "It's not you, Matt. Not any of you. That's not — it's not why he hasn't, like, invited you into our life or anything. He's not scared of that, I don't think. "

He made himself stop babbling, and did his best to smile. "He'll tell you when he finds someone special, Matt. There's no problem with you. We're not together, that's all," and it wasn't a lie.

It wasn't a lie, and that was why there was nothing profound about where Shane got approved. The part where it wasn't a lie left out the truth: there was a problem.

It just wasn't with the Uries.


They start the day in a burst of beautiful energy. Zack, primed by their dinner, doesn't mention Ryan's name at all, doesn't suggest that Jon should join them, and between them he and Shane guide Spencer to a great many opportunities to shoot aliens and yell at the top of his lungs. It's good for him, Shane can tell. There's more color in his face now than there has been in almost two weeks.

Sarah's more than game, polite but not familiar with Zack, ruthless in one-upping Brendon's roller coaster tolerance. She fights with Spencer about slushies versus Dippin' Dots and is gracious about losing; lets Shane steal her fries; insists on buying Brendon's lunch. She isn't showing much sign of being scared off yet, but it's still early in the day, still normal-people time.

As long as the roller coasters are what's going, Brendon's a pretty normal Disneyland visitor, especially with Zack to keep him in arm's reach. Around four o'clock, though, when everybody's getting tired of their stomachs swooping around, Brendon starts to pay attention to his surroundings, to the gift shops and trivia posted all over the place. This is the point where most people's energy is lagging, and all they want to do is sit down and rest, while Brendon insists on dragging his party all over the park in search of Chip and Dale's autographs. His mind is too active to appreciate sitting in the hot sun with a bunch of people who mostly want to complain about how their feet hurt.

Shane doesn't mind it, even when the weather's hot, because Brendon gets terrifically earnest and excited. Brendon's at his most elemental when he's sunk in being a big dork, whether it's a musical dork or a cartoon conglomerate dork, and Shane likes to watch him. Spencer and Zack suffer in good humor because they're used to it. The Uries, in Shane's experience, handed Brendon the hyperactive ten-year-old and pointed him in another direction while they took the younger kids to sit on the grass.

Shane's been waiting for this all day, the time when Brendon will get adorable and insistent, for the moment when Sarah realizes exactly what she's gotten herself into. Brendon won't care that she's dumped him — Shane knows when Brendon's invested in relationships, and there's been no sign of it. A nice clean break, with Brendon's anti-Shane-relationship point made, and no more Sarah perched around the house forcing them to pretend there's no tension in the air.

Zack and Spencer's steps have slowed to a crawl, and Brendon's climbed on Zack's back and tried to drive him faster at least twice already. They've hit two shops in quick succession, and Shane isn't quite sure how he wound up with Brendon fastening a Daisy Duck charm bracelet around his wrist, but he's going with it. Sarah's been shaking her legs out absently, like they're getting sore and cramped.

Any second now…

Brendon bounds over from the big board of announcements he's been studying. "Hey, it says the cast of Peter Pan will be signing autographs on the other side of the park! I wanna go meet Captain Hook, c'mon!"

"Are you crazy?" Sarah demands, and Shane doesn’t let himself smile in triumph, not at all. "Smee is the best thing about that movie, and if you think Captain Hook can hold a candle to him you are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity."

Shane blinks at her, and for a second, Brendon does, too. "Did you just quote Toy Story to make your point about a pirate from Peter Pan?" he asks uncertainly.

Sarah raises her eyebrows at him. "You got a problem with that?"

"I — no."

"You gonna tell me Captain Hook is better than Smee?"

"I — no. "

She smiles at him, a lofty, superior smile. "Sorry to hear it. I was looking forward to grinding you into dust."

Brendon blinks at her again, and then, slowly, he starts to smile. "Tell you what," he says, looking her right in the eye. "Let's go find 'em, and you can argue with me on the way."

"Okay, then," she says, and lets Brendon take her hand and drag her away. Shane lets Spencer and Zack go ahead of him, walking a little slower in his bemusement.


Shane has been around for most of Brendon's sexual growth, is the thing. All jokes about "growth" aside.

He wasn't there for the technical "awakening," of course, though he's heard the stories everybody tells, ragging on Brendon's early-day fuckups. He knows some of the other stuff, too, a combination of dropped crumbs and just knowing Brendon really, really well; knows that Brendon was both a king of TMI and weirdly private about sex at first, that he approached it with a combination of uncertainty, greed, and awe.

By the time they met, sex wasn't new to Brendon, and by the time he got back from summer tour, sex with guys wasn't either. So Shane wasn't around for all of it, but...most. He was there for the first few people who were using Brendon for his fame; he was there for the first time Brendon used one of them back.

(It wasn't till after that Brendon started to have any faith in his own sexiness, the fucked-up-edness of which Shane worried about. Brendon was good at sex, in the way people can be when they're confident and clearly enjoying themselves, open to taking risks; it sounded like a Cosmo article, but it was true anyway, that it didn't take much more than that. He was best in friends-with-benefits situations, and Shane didn't just know that from personal experience: it was a small bus. Somehow being aware that everybody was in it for the fun meant that Brendon paid more attention to whether the other person was having any.)

He'd been there for Brendon's one-night stands (and pointed them toward the coffee afterward); for Brendon sliding back into the booth at a club, grinning and swiping at the lipstick on his collar. He'd seen Brendon keep girls around for a few weeks or a month, swiping cattily at their skills and personalities when their backs were turned. He hadn't seen Brendon with a boyfriend, ever, but then Brendon's attitude toward homosexual activity was hand-grown by the likes of Wentz and Saporta, and just going below the waist didn't make it less casual.

He'd seen Brendon smirk over having a hot girl on his arm; watched Brendon's hand curl over someone's thigh, crude and possessive.

He's never seen him smile like that before, though. Soft and surprised, delighted. Like maybe he's not only aware there's a person in there, but he kind of likes the fact.


Zack goes home. Shane lets Brendon drag the whole crowd of them to the beach once or twice, sends out his resume a few times, bullies Spencer into smiling and playing video games and being normal for a few hours a day. Jon comes over occasionally for coffee and to answer Spencer's quietly insistent questions about Ryan's eating habits; Shane draws him aside after with excuses about lighting consultations. They wind up these conversations with, "If you need anything, man," and "Sure, sure, you too," and pretend they're not really talking about switching caretakers, maybe. They're feeling their way, blind as bats, and both of them know it — it's Ryan's job to prod Spencer during his fits of moping, Spencer's to stand steadfast and coax Ryan through his artistic expressions of pain.

It isn't really helping that Jon and Shane are equally clueless about why Keltie dumping Ryan is such a sore spot between Spencer and Ryan; God only knows what toes they're accidentally squashing with their big, mere-years-of-friendship clodhoppers. Brendon won't look Shane in the eye when the Keltie thing lurks in quiet conversation, which ought to mean he knows something, but he's blatantly bewildered by Spencer's sadness, so it isn't that he could fix SpencerandRyan and isn't telling.

Sarah's still around, in the face of all previous experience; she and Brendon moved on to Emperor's New Groove vs. Atlantis, and detoured to attentively watch a live performance of High School Musical 2. Sarah made delighted remarks about the homoeroticism of the baseball scene, and Shane grudgingly let her win him over just a little bit more.

She cooks, now, occasionally, encouraging Brendon to break the rule about sharp things and coaxing Spencer into opinions on spices. Her bras keep springing out of the laundry basket, vibrant padded things with swirls or hearts on them. Shane has twice now just barely avoided walking in on her and Brendon giggling in the bathroom, half-dressed and flicking water at each other, something playful and predatory in the way they tugged at one another's buttons and hooks.

It's been six weeks, and there's been no word around the scene about Ryan's virtual disappearance from their lives, no mention of Spencer's closed, unhappy face or the way Jon shows and jokes but never stays long. Shane gives up worrying their private lives will end up public news, but that leaves him lacking explanations for his own behavior.

Shane finds he's gritting his teeth a little more often these days. He has a little less patience with the poor dogs, who are quite as happy to be scratched behind the ear by Sarah as they are anyone else. He's only had Brendon in his bed twice in almost a month; both times he was rougher than he meant to be, rougher than he's ever been unless Brendon was begging for it with sharp teeth and flailing limbs. (Brendon didn't seem to notice, but then, Brendon needs rough sex pretty often. Maybe he's missed the fact that there's usually a reason for Shane to pin him down, fuck him hard and unforgiving.) Brendon didn't let him leave marks, either time.

Somehow, though, the vague itch of dissatisfaction stays a mere itch. He maybe looks in other directions when they go to clubs and Brendon pulls Sarah out on the floor, but he doesn't see any reason not to go. Walking into the kitchen to find Brendon on his knees in front of Sarah with her panties around her ankles mostly makes him roll his eyes and yell things about how people have to eat in there.

Then one night he walks into a quiet house, not even the usual cascade of yips from their pack of tiny, ridiculous dogs. The light's still on in the laundry room, where he dumps his bag, but the rest of the house is dark. He figures everybody's out and doesn't bother flicking the lights — this house has been home long enough to get up to bed without fussing about which switch controls which light. Spencer has a thing about switches going up for "on" and down for "off", anyway.

Shane's humming — something Brendon's been messing with that doesn't have any words yet — as he strolls down the hallway, sees the flickering blue light of the TV. Huh.

He stops to peer around the corner. Brendon and Sarah are sprawled across the couch, not even cuddling, really — one of her legs is across Brendon's thigh, but there's a dog between them and two more piled on their laps. On the screen, Fezzik has his hand fisted in Inigo's hair; he's dunking him into the barrels of cold water, over and over again. The light dances over their faces as they turn their heads just slightly to grin at each other.

And then — hard to the gut — it hurts.


Shane has a small, secret treasure trove of moments Brendon has felt his, utterly, affectionately his; mental snapshots of a look, a smile, a touch, tiny and warm and curling up inside his chest.

Brendon, sweaty and wrung out, cock limp against his thigh, stretching lazily and offering Shane a wrist to rub the handcuff marks out of, a slow easy grin on his face.

Brendon, eyes closed, opening his red, swollen mouth to swallow Shane down, his expression one of quiet bliss.

Brendon in the shower, scrubbing his hair with both hands and winking at Shane from under the suds.

Brendon at the breakfast table on Christmas morning, elbowing Shane in the side when his sister-in-law said something that could totally be taken in completely the wrong way if you were twelve. Or Brendon Urie.

Brendon, lighting up the first time Bogart saw him coming and came running up to jump into his arms.

Brendon, curled up on the floor with his head on Shane's knee, looking up and laughing with shining eyes when Wolf ordered dinner in 10th Kingdom.

Those moments are the closest Brendon's ever come to being somebody's boyfriend, really — the closest he's come in the time Shane's known him, at least. Shane keeps them coiled in his memory for when he needs them. He's never quite minded not being Brendon's boyfriend, because he knows that he's the next-best thing. He's what would be Brendon's boyfriend if Brendon were capable of being a boyfriend. Other people have never mattered, the "girlfriends", because it was an empty title, completely devoid of Brendon's loud, wild yelp of joy when they signed the last papers to buy their house together.

Shane can't stand it, he's suddenly sure, he can't stand it if Sarah gets to have everything Shane has and the title, too. If Brendon tells her he loves her — romantic, schmoopy, forever and always loves her — when Shane had never been able to get more than a, "Love ya, man," out of him, Shane will never recover.


It's the next day that Shane comes in to the kitchen to see Brendon wrestling with a travel planning website, clicking out of the various pop-up windows with increasing ferocity.

Shane wants to smile, and tease him. He still can't quite draw breath enough for that. His whole skin feels scraped thin and easily bruised, broken. Brendon hears the cup being set on the counter, though, and he twists to offer Shane an absent smile.

Shane's lips twitch, more smile-like than they have any right to be, considering his sleepless night, lying curled tight into his sheets with Indy nosing at his face, trying to make him do something besides lie still and breathe slow, long breaths. He wasn't able to bring himself to push her away, anymore than he can not smile back when Brendon smiles at him.

"Can you explain to me how I’m supposed to book a flight when every time I click a button I get a new menu and six new windows?" Brendon asks, clicking again.

Shane reaches for the coffepot and pours another mugful. "Can you explain to me why you're booking a flight?" he says, mildly curious. Zack handles travel arrangements for the band; he can't think of anywhere personal Brendon is expected, and Jon is here, back from his brief jaunt to Chicago.

"Expedia has a two-for-one deal for July, in theory." Brendon's tone is dubious.

Shane frowns for a second. "What — oh. The wedding? I forget the date — remind me so I don't schedule any filming that weekend, okay?"

Brendon turns, his eyebrows raised in surprise. "Did you want to come, too?"

Shane blinks at him. "I...you did say two for one?"

"Well, yeah," Brendon says, slowly. "But I meant — I figured, you know. It's a good time to introduce Sarah. Everybody will be too busy with the wedding to really interrogate her, and — Shane?"

Shane feels like he's at the end of a long, dark tunnel, hollow winds rushing past his ears as he fights to stay upright and the tunnel gets longer.

"Shane?" Brendon says again, and Shane looks up to see that Brendon has a hand on his elbow and is peering anxiously into his face. "You okay, dude?"

Shane knocks Brendon's hand away from him. He can't — he can't have Brendon's skin against his right now.

"Shane?" Wary, now.

Shane makes himself breathe in slowly once, twice. "You're taking Sarah to the wedding," he says, fighting to keep his tone even. "You want her to meet your family."

"I — yeah." Brendon still looks confused, for God's sake.

"You're serious."

Brendon frowns at him. "I'm not joking. I think they're going to want to meet my girlfriend, dude."

"Your girlfriend," Shane says, and realizes his voice is shaking despite his best efforts. "You're taking her home to meet them. As your girlfriend."

"I — yeah," Brendon says, helplessly. "Are you — seriously, dude, are you okay?"

Shane sucks in another breath, faster and harsher this time. "For someone who was just outstripped by a rival he met two months ago," he says, tight and hard, "I'm fan-fucking-tastic."

Brendon blinks.

Shane snatches his keys from their hook by the door, gets in the car, and drives.



Part Three: Jon
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Fanfiction by Elucreh

April 2017


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